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Hopes & Fears

I’m still holding out some hope that we are panicking unnecessarily. We are waiting results of a second fingerstick test which the girl got on Friday. Then we will have another number to look at. If it is higher than her first screening, there will be much moaning and gnashing of teeth. If it’s lower, even slightly, then we will feel good that it is at least moving in the right direction. If it’s radically lower, then we can conclude the first screening was contaminated by environmental lead, but I don’t hold out much hope for that.

(I wrote previously that the rate of false positives for these tests was something like 75%, but I botched the math. Rather, in the study cited, 75% of positive results were false. Since only 2% of results were positive to begin with, the overall rate of false positives would be more like 1.5%.)

Assuming we don’t see a big change, we’ll have to schedule a follow-up test where blood is actually drawn from a vein. Those tests are more reliable. But I hate the thought of doing that to our baby. The pinprick was bad enough.

I’ve been learning about what an elevated blood level really means. I found this writeup helpful.

The higher the test result, the more lead is in your blood. However, the amount of lead in the blood does not necessarily reflect the total amount of lead in your body. This is because lead travels from the lungs and intestinal tract to the blood and organs, and then is gradually removed from the blood and organs and stored in tissues such as bones and teeth. Blood lead concentrations represent recent exposure or chronic exposure. The danger that a particular lead level represents depends on the age and health of the person, the amount of lead they are exposed to, and the amount of time that they are exposed to elevated lead levels.

So our hope is, I suppose, that her exposure was recent, and that we caught the absolute spike. My fear is that it is more a case of chronic exposure, little amounts of lead dust adding up over time. I think that would be worse, because there would be longer time for other tissues to absorb the lead.

Of course our ultimate hope is that we see no long-term effects whatsoever, no discernible cognitive impairment, but it will be years before we know about that.

After a few days of mental anguish, I kind of normalized last week, and I thought I was coping pretty well. But yesterday I found myself in another spiral of worry, and it was pretty rough. It kind of reminded me of those days and weeks and months after Katrina. The bad feelings come in waves, and it’s all I can do not to get swamped.

I’ve been grateful for the support of my friends and community. There are a couple suggestions that keep recurring: check our pipes, and look into chelation therapy.

I’m not too worried about our pipes because we had the house almost entirely re-plumbed after the flood, plus I tested our tap water for lead last year, plus we’ve switched to Kentwood bottled water for drinking, plus lead paint is considered a far-and-away greater health risk than old pipes.

As for chelation therapy, that’s where they pump some ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid into the body. It binds with lead and other heavy metals, which are then excreted. The mainstream medical community recommends this only for blood lead levels far higher than our girl’s test results indicate. This therapy can have negative and dangerous side effects. However, chelation is embraced by alternative medical practitioners to combat everything from autism to atherosclerosis. I’m really not sure what to think of it.

Meanwhile Xy’s in her first full week at her new school, we’re getting pre-approved for a new mortgage, I’m calling lead abatement specialists and inspectors, and I need to call a contractor to fix the ceiling in our kitchen before we try to sell the house. No stress. No stress at all.

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  1. When things seem to be worrying you more than normal it’s a good idea to step out of the house for a few minutes to have some private worry time. I usually just drive a few blocks and come back.

    I am sure after all of the testing process is over she will be fine.

  2. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    that p.t.s.d. is a real evil bastard.

    just when you think he’s out of your life he has a funny way of creeping back in.

    being aware of his prescence is the best tool for kicking him to the curb.

    good luck yall , sounds like this could be a springboard to some exciting and fun adventures.

  3. Tim Tim

    I don’t want to be negative, but this worry will stay with you for as long as you live there. It’s a wonderful house and you two have done so much to repair and improve it. But if moving is what is best, then moving is the answer. From what you’ve posted these last few days I don’t sense any panic in you. And that’s a good thing. Whatever you decide should be done with a calm, informed mind.

    You have my best wishes. Peace,


  4. Joe Joe

    You were right the first time about the false positives – or more correctly, you were right both times, and it’s your first math that matters right now.

    The odds of any random person getting a false positive result are about 1.5%. But for any person who got a positive test, the odds that it’s wrong are about 75%.

    Now, if you told me that my kid had a 25% chance of having lead poisoning, I’d probably be doing the same things you are. (Both in terms of remediation – which is just a the right thing to do – and a serious amount of worry.) But I’d be trying hard to take comfort that 3 out of 4 times they’re wrong.

  5. Chris Chris

    I haven’t read a lot of your blog but an earlier entry about your daughters lead poisoning caught my attention. I worked on a hazardous materials site and received a fair amount of lead training. I’m sure that you have done tons of research and this may be information that you already know about. You and your wife should both be tested. From the information we were giving during training the number one exposure is thru air. They said that children would be at risk if I was exposed and did not change clothes or shoes and came home and hugged my daughter. This of course is extreme but that is the reason they have us wear the tyvek suits.

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